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Advice? -- 1991 SJ-45 needs work, bigtime


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Hi -- I'm wondering if forum members have any advice for me regarding a situation with my Gibson acoustic.

 

I have a 1991 SJ-45 -- it does not have a "banner" headstock like many i have seen online, but it does have the pearl inlay fingerboard:

 

IMG_0385.JPG

 

part of the problem is, i can't really tell what specific model this is! i see lots of entries for "sj-45" reissue 1991 and 1992, but they all talk about having the "banner" headstock and i don't have that.

 

my situation is this -- i recently took the guitar to sam ash to consider trading it in or possibly just selling outright, and was told that it's a "cool guitar" and "they want it," but that they have to pass on buying it because:

 

• they feel the neck has problems and needs to be "re-set," whatever that means, and

• they feel there is a bracing issue where the belly of the guitar has slight swelling and they'd want to correct that

 

they said this would cost $1200 to fix to make it playable!

 

i am trying to figure out what the heck to do! i can NOT spend $1200 to fix a guitar right now. i'm wondering if

 

• anyone can tell me approximately what this guitar in excellent shape would be worth (so i can assess if repairs are worth it)

• is there a place where i can get repairs for less than $1200??

• are there less expensive things i can do to fix the neck, and specifically the extremely high action?

 

finally, if i do just want to sell it "as is" and start over, what is a fair price for me to attach to the guitar?

 

i thank you for any advice you can offer.

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I can't tell you the exact model designation. What does the label say?

 

Its looks basically mimic an SJ from around 1947, other than the 20-fret board. In good playing and cosmetic condition, its value would be about the same as a straight J-45 from 1991, maybe abound $1400-$1800, from what I've seen. The SJ is essentially a fancier version of the J-45, but it won't necessarily be more valuable.

 

If it has really high action, a neck re-set may be called for. At some point, that's the only rational fix. Others here will know if a 1991 has the normal dovetail neck joint, or the paddle joint. The paddle joint complicates a neck re-set.

 

In my neck of the woods (south Florida), a neck re-set of a standard dovetail neck joint by a good luthier runs around $400-$600.

 

Some bellying of the top is normal, but if it is severe enough to raise the action significantly, there could be something else going on.

 

In any case, a second opinion is probably called for before dropping that kind of money on repairs.

 

Looks like the guitar has a nice Cali Girl case, which is a plus. I happen to really like the looks of the guitar, but I'm an SJ fan.

 

What gauge strings do you use?

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Keith - are you the original owner of this guitar? Might be some warranty coverage.

 

A neck re-set involves removing the neck and restoring it to the correct geometry in its reattachment to the body. I recently had this done, along with planing the fret board, new frets, new bridge and saddle, new nut, and K&K install - that cost me $1,200. If your guitar needs a neck re-set,that alone might coat you $600.

 

Looks like a potentially great player. I agree with others - in good playable shape this instrument is probably worth $1,500.

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thank you to everyone!

 

j45nick, i generally use 12's or 13's for strings.

 

duluthdan, i am the original owner -- but i bought it 20 years ago! do you think there is still warranty coverage? that would be amazing.

 

j-200 koa, i will definitely seek another opinion -- tomorrow i am going to bring the instrument in and ask the folks at guitar center what they think.

 

gents, in general i am seeing quite a few websites from the good guitar magazines that explain how to carefully adjust neck bow. i'd have to make sure the fretboard lines up correctly with the saddle, then adjust. so long as i follow their cautious directives, is there any reason why this would be inadvisable?

 

right now the main problem with the instrument is that the action is freaky-high and it's affecting intonation.

 

i have accepted that i'm really not going to be able to sell it for any real cash after spending to fix it, so my goal has shifted to making it the best possible setup and intonation i can get so i can keep playing it!

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The cost of repairs is high IMO. Most big box guitar retailers have an "in house" luthier. Their cost for repairs should be much lower than quoted if they acquire the instrument.

The action is high enough that truss rod adjustment is not going to make a noticeable difference.

A quick glance inside with a mirror should reveal if it has the double dovetail neck joint.

+1 for being the original owner and checking w/Gibson as to warranty.

Some of the early '90's SJ had rosewood b&s. Yours looks to be mahogany but not clear from the pics. The rosewood b&s models tend to bring a little more on resale from what I have seen. As I recall the rosewood model had the banner.

A nice guitar you have there, aside from the issues. I am a big fan of the early '90's Gibson acoustics. I hope this turns out well for you Keith.

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Your guitar has a 5 year warranty. It was '93 before Gibson went to the lifetime warranty and the problem isn't so much about workmanship and materials as it is about the top coming up. Maybe humidity issues in the past or maybe even loose or cracked braces.

 

If it were my guitar I would lower the saddle as much as possible and hope that was enough. If not you could always put a lower bridge on it or shave and re-slot the old one. You might have to ramp the bridge as well. This is just s stop gap solution until you can get the neck reset. These can be done by any competent repair guy and the cost could be from $20.00 to $200.00. $600.00 for a reset should cover it.

 

Check with the Gibson website for an authorized repair station near you. They can do the work you need and might even be able to talk Gibson into sending a lower bridge and saddle blank as a courtesy.

 

It's a great guitar and she has plenty of life left in her.

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one add'l question, as i'm trying to resolve this myself with spending too much $$$ -- i would like to try and adjust the truss rod myself.

 

however, i'm seeing conflicting reports --- some adjust the next with an allen key up in the headstock; others do it with a nut wrench through the soundhole.

 

do you know which i would use for this guitar?

 

i see a cover on the headstock that i'm guessing covers an allen wrench option.

 

if there is a soundhole nut -- do i have to adjust both at the same time? hold one still while i adjust the other? adjust one and not the other?

 

any advice appreciated!

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one add'l question, as i'm trying to resolve this myself with spending too much $$$ -- i would like to try and adjust the truss rod myself.

 

however, i'm seeing conflicting reports --- some adjust the next with an allen key up in the headstock; others do it with a nut wrench through the soundhole.

 

do you know which i would use for this guitar?

 

i see a cover on the headstock that i'm guessing covers an allen wrench option.

 

if there is a soundhole nut -- do i have to adjust both at the same time? hold one still while i adjust the other? adjust one and not the other?

 

any advice appreciated!

 

Gibson truss rods adjust using a socket on the truss rod nut under the cover on the headstock. Modern Martins adjust using a hex key through the soundhole. As BBG says, a truss rod adjustment isn't going to fix a problem on the order of magnitude we see here.

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just reporting back -- i visited an in-house luthier and after a long convo he recommended trying a combination of truss rod less relief and gently sand down saddle.

 

i did that and saw some helpful results. it made a positive difference in the action.

 

my current situation is that i could actually continue truss rod adjustment to less relief because the E, B, G, D and E strings could take more.

 

the problem is the A -- specifically, the open A begins to buzz after a certain point, so i have to stop truss rod adjustments there.

 

i have confirmed that the A only buzzes on open string -- the moment i use fret one, it stops.

 

the reading i am doing suggests that a nut shim adjustment could provide a little height there, giving the A the height to allow me to do more truss rod adjustments. however, right now i do not have money to spend on this repair, so i think i am going to have to accept that the combination of saddle adjust + truss rod is the best improvement i am going to get.

 

thanks to all for your advice! -- if and when i have some $$ to spend I will definitely give the guitar the tune-up it deserves.

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just reporting back -- i visited an in-house luthier and after a long convo he recommended trying a combination of truss rod less relief and gently sand down saddle.

 

i did that and saw some helpful results. it made a positive difference in the action.

 

my current situation is that i could actually continue truss rod adjustment to less relief because the E, B, G, D and E strings could take more.

 

the problem is the A -- specifically, the open A begins to buzz after a certain point, so i have to stop truss rod adjustments there.

 

i have confirmed that the A only buzzes on open string -- the moment i use fret one, it stops.

 

the reading i am doing suggests that a nut shim adjustment could provide a little height there, giving the A the height to allow me to do more truss rod adjustments. however, right now i do not have money to spend on this repair, so i think i am going to have to accept that the combination of saddle adjust + truss rod is the best improvement i am going to get.

 

thanks to all for your advice! -- if and when i have some $$ to spend I will definitely give the guitar the tune-up it deserves.

 

You can actually build up the A string slot in the nut a bit, using superglue and a thickening additive like baking soda. Someone here will chime in and explain how to do this, since I've never done it. That might allow you to sand a bit more off the bottom of the saddle, dropping the action overall a bit more. The key here is to raise the nut end of the string to stop the buzzing, while lowering the saddle.

 

The key to sanding the underside of the saddle is to attach a piece of sandpaper of the appropriate grit--maybe 150-220 for this job--to a flat, rigid surface, like a well-supported piece of glass or the machined cast iron surface of a table saw or jointer. You can use masking tape or duct tape to hold the sandpaper in place if needed. Be sure to keep the saddle perpendicular to you sanding surface to keep the bottom as flat and square as possible.

 

As always, work slowly, taking off a little at a time. You can always sand down more, but you can't put the material back on.

 

You can build up the string slot as much as you want, and file down as far as is required. You don't want that string noticeably higher than the others at the nut.

 

At some point, if you want to fiddle with this, you need to watch the excellent repair and setup videos on stewmac.com.

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Aw sheesh. Did you already do this? Trust me truss rod relief, and shims, etc. are not going to fix this. Something is going on here.

 

That through saddle needs to be taken off the top of the saddle (any sanding you do). Sanding from the bottom is going to make it too short (lengthwise, not height) for a through saddle.

 

I can't believe that a luthier looked at it and has not told you why?? your action is that high.

 

Call it my Christmas spirit but if you send it to me I will fix it. No B.S.

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That through saddle needs to be taken off the top of the saddle (any sanding you do). Sanding from the bottom is going to make it too short (lengthwise, not height) for a through saddle.

 

 

 

It doesn't really matter if the saddle gets a little shorter in length by sanding it on the bottom. It's still a slot-through saddle. You just make sure that every time you change strings, you positon the saddle exactly as it was, since the coped-out ends of the saddle will no longer line up exactly with the coped-out ends of the bridge. It's not a big deal.

 

If you sand it from the top of the saddle, you have to be careful to maintain the radius, as well as any intonation fine-tuning that may have been done on the top of the saddle.

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Agree with building up the A string height at the nut. Probably nut slot is cut too low.

 

I would try running a 24" ruler down the middle of fretboard to the bridge, and see where the end of the ruler goes. Does it line up above or below the top of bridge? Also, another way to tell if neck needs re-set is take the ruler and measure right in front of bridge the distance from bottom of Low E string to the top of the soundboard. Should be roughly 1/2".

 

Learned this from Frets.com

 

I have a SJ45 same year just like this, mahogany with no banner on headstock. I don't think many of them were made, don't see them around. Yours is the first besides mine i've seen. Great guitar, love how mine sounds. Its going on 25 yrs., so its starting to sound old - hang to it and get someone besides Guitar Center to look at it. If you don't mind going to PA, on the way to Nazareth - there is a place called

 

http://brothersmusicshop.com/directions.html Highly recommend you take it there. They are very honest and will fix it (prices are reasonable too)

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  • 5 weeks later...

All, just reporting back with good news -- after hunting around for quite a while, i spoke with a luthier on 14th street who was recommended by Gibson.

 

he listened to what i had to say and volunteered that there was a good chance the guitar required neither a re-set nor a re-bracing -- he said he believed the guitar just needed to be rehumidified for a fraction of the cost.

 

long story short, i visited him, and he verified: no need for neck re-set or any other intensive work. he said he merely has to re-humidify the guitar and run a set-up. he is additionally going to create a new saddle to correct some intonation problems that resulted from it not fitting correctly. so in the end i am getting out of this for almost $1000 less than the initial guitar tech told me!

 

anyway, just wanted to say thanks again for your advice and let you know the guitar is in the hands of a very good luthier and should be all set within a few weeks!

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All, just reporting back with good news -- after hunting around for quite a while, i spoke with a luthier on 14th street who was recommended by Gibson.

 

he listened to what i had to say and volunteered that there was a good chance the guitar required neither a re-set nor a re-bracing -- he said he believed the guitar just needed to be rehumidified for a fraction of the cost.

 

long story short, i visited him, and he verified: no need for neck re-set or any other intensive work. he said he merely has to re-humidify the guitar and run a set-up. he is additionally going to create a new saddle to correct some intonation problems that resulted from it not fitting correctly. so in the end i am getting out of this for almost $1000 less than the initial guitar tech told me!

 

anyway, just wanted to say thanks again for your advice and let you know the guitar is in the hands of a very good luthier and should be all set within a few weeks!

 

Hope it turns out well for you; keep us posted!

 

Nice guitar, btw.

 

Fred

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